Anthony Moll began pursuing a creative arts degree on a whim.
Moll, who uses the pronoun they, was working at a LGBTQ nonprofit in communications and hated the job. They had money to pay for college from the GI Bill after serving in the Army and decided to try writing.
They didn’t know anything about being a working writer and hadn’t written much, other than keeping a journal as a kid. But they met students from the University of Baltimore’s Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program, and liked what they had to say. In 2011, Moll enrolled into the program and their writing career has taken off ever since.
It turned out Moll was a pretty good writer.
Since graduating, they’ve won many awards for their writing, often about gender issues. Their first book — ”Out of Step: A Memoir” — won the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction in 2018. This year, their second book — a collection of poems titled “You Cannot Save Here” — won the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize.
The Jean Feldman Poetry Prize is awarded by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House to writers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The Washington Writers’ Publishing House is a nonprofit that celebrates the work of poets and fiction writers.
“Anthony Moll’s poems rocket the reader towards their ‘favorite apocalypse,’ and with a voice both energetic and compelling. It reminds us how to hold on to what we love, even as the world is falling apart around us,” said Steven Leyva, assistant professor of English at the University of Baltimore and a member of the poetry judging committee.
As an awardee, Moll received $1,500 and the Washington Writers’ Publishing House published their book of poems.
The book of poems is a compilation that walks the reader through Moll’s “favorite apocalypse” and addresses the myriad of feelings that come with watching the world change. Moll writes about the drudgery of work, and the beauty of love and friendship. It features dozens of poems of the same name: You Cannot Save Here. There is a meditation in the repetition of the title.
“The title refers to a lot of things … in video games, before autosave, there would be points where you’d try to save and you couldn’t … in the Christian religious sense like ‘saving’ someone … it’s also about how we are past the point to prevent a climate emergency like literally you cannot save this world,” Moll said.
Jona Colson, poetry editor at the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, said the collection is “driven by mastery of language, image, and metaphor.”
“It’s weird because in poetry, the book isn’t the thing,” Moll said. “The poem is the thing.”
The collection was brought together over time. Each poem was written in the free moments Moll had while balancing work and home life. Sometimes, Moll quickly scribbled thoughts and poems on the notes app of their cellphone.
For Moll, becoming a writer wasn’t in the plans until it was. When applying to creative writing programs, they didn’t even expect to get in, let alone thrive. They were excited about getting into UB, their first choice.
“It’s punching above its weight!” Moll said about UB’s writing program. While there, Moll learned alongside noted writer D. Watkins, and learned firsthand that being part of a writing community is vital to a long career. Since about 2015, they have met monthly with writers to discuss work and support each other’s projects.
Moll started taking writing seriously while studying for their MFA, and found that they “always wrote.” They don’t have a daily writing practice, but they have a practice that works.
Many writers cobble a living together in unique ways, something Moll has come to learn. “When I was young, I thought being a writer was just writing and now I know no writer is 100% writing,” Moll said.
While at UB, they became a writing coach and also realized teaching is a passion.
At Harford Community College in Bel Air, they teach composition, literature and workshops in prose and poetry. In Moll’s class, students can earn extra credit by finding some creative events outside of the classroom. And Moll always lets their students know about great literary and writing events in Baltimore.
Moll has two other very early manuscripts in the works. They’re on the hunt for an agent now who can help them sift through offers and shop the books around when the time is right. Until then, they are grateful to have a tenure-track teaching job.
“I’ll always be writing,” Moll said.